Speed Racer

Speed Racer

“Here he comes, here comes Speed Racer,
He’s a demon on wheels…”

Of all of the animated shows to come out of Japan in the 60s, there is none more fondly remembered than Mach Go Go Go, which followed the adventures of a dashing young race car driver. If it doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps you know it by its American title, Speed Racer.

On the racing circuit, Speed had plenty of support from friends and family. Most important were the temperamental Pops who built Speed’s cars, and Sparky the lovable gangly mechanic who kept everything running smoothly. Moms wasn’t seen all too frequently, but that didn’t mean that she didn’t also play an integral role behind the scenes.

Spunky girlfriend, Trixie, was always at her man’s side, whether on the track or occasionally at the hospital (after all, racing is a dangerous endeavor). And finally, the team was rounded out by cute little brother, Spridal (who was usually in the way) and his beloved pet monkey Chim Chim, both of whom provided the comic relief.

Of course, the mysterious Racer X was one of the most intriguing and mysterious characters on the show – the lone masked driver who always seemed to show up when Speed needed him most, tipping the scales in Speed’s favor. While his identity may have been a mystery to Speed and his team, viewers were better informed.

Racer X was actually his long-lost brother, Rex Racer, who was forced to keep his identity a secret from everyone on Team Speed Racer due to some tragic circumstances in the past involving the destruction of the vehicle Mach 4. But, mask or not, Racer X was always there when his brother needed help.

While all of the characters on Speed Racer were memorable, perhaps the true star of the show was Mach 5, Speed’s amazing race car. Equipped with a plethora of devices that would have made James Bond proud, the car’s steering wheel had a series of buttons that did some amazing things.

Button “A “ activated the cars jacks, allowing Speed the ability to jump obstacles. Button “B” gave his tires extra traction. By pressing “C,” Speed could utilize the car’s chainsaws, which would protrude from the front and quickly cut down any tree in his way. The “D” button sealed off the interior of the car, making it impervious to bullets, poisonous gas and the like, and also making the vehicle amphibious. The “E” button added extra illuminating power to his headlights, and the “F” button aided in underwater missions by providing 30 seconds of oxygen to the interior, and for good measure, a nifty periscope. Finally the ‘G” and “H” button controlled a small remote-controlled bird, hidden under the hood.

The bird acted as a carrier pigeon of sorts, with the former button releasing it, where it could then be controlled by joystick, and the latter button calling it back to the vehicle. All of the gadgets delighted the many young fans of the show and at least one of the special features was used in each episode.

In Japan, Speed went by the name, Go Mifune, a tip of the hat to beloved Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune. A man named Peter Hernandez was primarily responsible for bringing the series to America, and also re-dubbing many of the voices into English. A total of 52 episodes of Speed Racer were produced during the sole year of the show’s initial run.

Mindful of the cultural gap between the two nations, he also painstakingly removed many of the more violent scenes, making it far more kid-friendly and ensuring that it would find a place in American syndication. His efforts paid off, as Speed Racer delighted young audiences, so much so that it still runs in syndication in some places – allowing a whole new generation of kids the opportunity to sit by the television, enthralled by the many adventures of this animated racing team.

If you have fond memories of watching Speed Racer, we’d love to hear all of your thoughts and recollections in our comments section below.

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